Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan is working with a group this spring that has almost no game experience.
It’s a talented group, but he reminds them all the time that outsiders aren’t expecting much from them.
“I use it all the time, because I don’t want those guys to walk around and get a big head because they’re having success during spring ball,” Hagan said. “That stuff has to carry over to the season and carry over through the years. Until they understand that and they don’t go out with a big head and think they’ve arrived, I’m going to constantly use it and constantly keep them in their place.”
Sophomore Alex Fontenot (11 carries for 43 yards) and walk-on junior Chase Sanders (four carries for nine yards) are the only tailbacks on the roster that have carried the ball in a game. Hagan, however, has confidence in the group to get the job done next season.
“They’re going to be fine,” he said. “They love to compete, they love what they’re doing. They’ll be just fine.”
Of course, there’s plenty of work to be done.
Redshirt freshmen Deion Smith and Jarek Broussard both have work to do in terms of their pass blocking, but have shown their talents running the ball.
True freshmen Joe Davis and Jaren Mangham, who both enrolled early, have plenty of work to do, as well, but they’ve impressed early on as bigger, physical backs.
“Joe is really, really smart,” Hagan said of the 5-foot-11, 210-pound freshman from Valor Christian High School. “He understands what we’re doing in pass protection. In the run game, he misses things because he starts guessing and starts dancing his feet. But, he’s going to be a good player. I’m pleasantly surprised with how advanced Josiah is.”
Mangham, a 6-2, 215-pounder from Detroit, has had a good spring, as well.
“He’s really, really good in pass protection and he knows what he’s doing for the most part,” Hagan said. “In the run game, he’s just physical as all be-out. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to get up field and run behind his pads. The sky is the limit for that dude.”
At this point, however, Fontenot’s experience is showing, as he’s slightly ahead of the others.
“He’s been there, he understands what I’m looking for,” Hagan said. “He’s gotten better. He’s gotten more physical, he’s put on a little bit of weight. He’s always been that guy that wanted to be great. Now he’s just got to go out and do it and that’s what he’s doing.
“He’s having a great spring and he’s really, really physical in the run game, he’s really, really physical in the pass game. You can’t ask for any more than that.”
Overall, Hagan said the group is talented and picking up pass blocking quicker than most young backs.
“I’m happy with the group I have,” he said.
Buffs locking in
Monday was the 13th of 15 spring practices, and CU’s players are meeting the standards set by new head coach Mel Tucker.
“I feel like the players are finally starting to understand the value of a practice and what really goes into a practice and how hard you have to play every snap, how important it is; the sense of urgency you need on every single play, every drill the intensity that we need to have,” Tucker said. “I felt that today from start to finish coming off the weekend, which was much better than last Monday. We got better today.”
A week ago, Tucker was not pleased with how the Buffs practiced after a weekend off. They heard about it, the practice schedule changed for Wednesday, and the Buffs have responded well. Monday showed Tucker that they’ve got the message.
“We confronted them about last Monday,” he said. “We got better last week on Wednesday and Friday, but really we needed to see how we were going to do today. The weekend, you have to make decisions; you have to come in and get treatment if you’re banged up. … You have to hydrate, you have to get your rest and you can’t forget about football over the weekend and just start thinking about it again on Monday morning. It doesn’t work like that. Obviously we were more focused when we came in today.”
Tucker said the tackling in Friday’s scrimmage was much better than it was in the first scrimmage on April 12. … On Saturday, the Buffs will host their spring game at Noon at Folsom Field. Tucker said the format will depend on the Buffs’ injury situation, but said, “It will be game-like if it all possible and we’ll probably have a running clock, except for the last four minutes of each half.”